Former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby cannot delay his 2-year prison term in the CIA leak case, a federal appeals court unanimously ruled Monday.
The decision is a dramatic setback for Libby, who likely will have to surrender to prison in weeks. The ruling puts pressure on President Bush, who has been sidestepping calls by Libby’s allies to pardon the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Libby was convicted in March of lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity. He is the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.
Libby believed he had a good chance of overturning the conviction on appeal and asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to put the sentence on hold. In a two-sentence ruling, the court refused.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has not yet assigned Libby a prison or given him a date to surrender. But last week it designated him as federal inmate No. 28301-016.
Libby’s attorneys did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Libby’s supporters, who raised millions of dollars for his defense fund, immediately renewed a call for a pardon.
“I hope it puts pressure on the president. He’s a man of pronounced loyalties and he should have loyalty to Scooter Libby,” said former Ambassador Richard Carlson, a member of Libby’s defense fund. “It would be a travesty for him to go off to prison. The president will take some heat for it. So what? He takes heat for everything.”
The leak investigation was a political cloud over the Bush administration for years. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald interviewed Bush and Cheney and ordered key White House aides to testify before a grand jury.
Nobody was charged with leaking Plame’s identity but Libby was convicted of lying about his conversations with reporters regarding the outed operative. Fitzgerald says his investigation is complete.
Like Libby’s trial judge, two of the three judges who ruled against him Monday were Republican nominees.